Is there anything more punch-worthy than saying “It’s August already? Where did the summer go?” Probably not, so we won’t say it. Instead, we’ll look ahead (past this weekend’s Breadfest/Center Street Daze mayhem) and round up a handful of shows worth checking out this month. (Be sure to peruse Milwaukee Record’s handy events calendar for even more August shows.)
Wednesday, August 6
Phox at Turner Hall
Baraboo seven-piece Phox is a band with that mythical “it”—a look and sound that seem destined for greater things than playing shows in and around the home of the Circus World Museum. The band’s self-titled debut (which premiered on NPR earlier this summer) is a gorgeously rendered collection of dreamy, heavy-lidded folk-pop, highlighted by the casually stunning voice of Monica Martin. This show will likely be the last time Phox is considered a “Wisconsin band,” and will represent the final step in its transformation into a national concern. See them now, in an intimate setting, while you still can.
Friday, August 8
Body Futures at Cactus Club
Let’s take a moment to honor those bands that refuse to play the kind of music that typically gets streamed on NPR, and instead stick to their noisy, straight-up rock-and-roll guns. Milwaukee’s Body Futures is such a group, stuffed with distorted guitars, hurricane-heavy drums, alternately sweet and sour male-female vocals, and pop-minded hooks polished to a high, deadly shine. Oh, and arrangements that continually take unexpected left turns, fly off cliffs (Toonces The Driving Cat-style), and somehow stick their landings. The group celebrates the release of their excellent debut album, Brand New Silhouettes, at this August show.
Saturday, August 9
Chain And The Gang at Riverwest Public House
Prolific “fuck-the-system” musician Ian Svenonius has been at it for more than 20 years, and is best known for his time with the ’90s garage-punk provocateurs The Make-Up. His latest project, Chain And The Gang, aims to assault a tired and staid music scene with stripped-down, self-styled “crime rock,” which mixes rock, blues, and gospel, and covers it all in a thick coat of attitude and sleaze. This August show also features an all-too-rare performance from Milwaukee’s own Trusty Knife.
Wednesday, August 13
Stacian at Cactus Club
It would be easy to say that one-woman synth act Stacian (a.k.a. Dania Luck) is more machine than woman, a stone-faced effects wizard hiding behind a bewildering array of retro keyboards, pedals, and drum machines. But there’s a surprising amount of humanity in Luck’s music, which nicely splits the difference between minimal, Kraftwerk-indebted tunes and the fest-ready electro of today. Stacian will never be mistaken for radio-friendly synth-pop, but her sound has become more accessible, polished, and dance-friendly since the release of 2012’s Songs For Cadets. This August show celebrates the release of a new split 12” with Chicago’s Gel Set, Voorhees, due August 12 on Moniker Records.
Wednesday, August 13 + Thursday, August 14
Willie Nelson & Family at Potawatomi Northern Lights Theater
Is there anything we can say about Willie Nelson that hasn’t been said? No. All we can tell you is that both of these shows are sold out, though don’t let that stop you from trying to score tickets to see the definition of a living legend.
Sunday, August 17
The Polyphonic Spree at Turner Hall
If you checked out on The Polyphonic Spree and their “Is this a band or a hippie cult?” shtick sometime around 2004’s Together We’re Heavy (you know, the one with that “Hold Me Now” song), now’s a good time to come back to the fold. Last year’s Yes, It’s True is a surprisingly great album that tempers the group’s wide-eyed chipperness with a shot of hook-heavy ’80s-esque synth-rock. But don’t fear, longtime believers: there’s still plenty of positivity (and robes) to go around.
Monday, August 18
Strand Of Oaks at Turner Hall
Under his Strand Of Oaks moniker, Timothy Showalter has long specialized in emotionally devastating, sonically delicate singer-songwriter folk. The latter half of that description changes with the new, surprisingly rocking Heal. It’s a bold and assured record full of charging guitars and heart-on-sleeve synth that completely reimagines Showalter’s sound while staying true to his confessional roots.
Saturday, August 23
Jeff Bridges & The Abiders at Pabst Theater
Kudos to Jeff Bridges for embracing the ever-growing cult of Lebowski by naming his group The Abiders. A self-titled 2011 album didn’t exactly break new ground, man, but it did prove the former-and-forever Dude has an undeniable ear for old-school country, and a voice to match. Think Bridges is just another celebrated actor moonlighting as a musician? You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.
Sunday, August 24
The Midwestern Charm at Linneman’s
Milwaukee’s The Midwestern Charm are a throwback to a time when tightly wound guitar-rock was king, a time before everyone got mopey, electronic-y, or folk-y. The group’s instantly likable second album, Growing Pains, is a crowd-pleaser through and through, and sees a local release at this August show.
Sunday, August 31
Old Earth + Twin Brother at Club Garibaldi
If you’re looking to support local artists by going to their record release shows but are short on time, then this two-for-one deal should not be missed. Old Earth’s experimental folk-rock may be more popular in Scotland than it is here, but it’s time to change that, dammit! And more love for Twin Brother couldn’t hurt, either. The band’s soulful, horn-heavy second album, Swallow The Anchor, is set for an August 19 release.